Today at Agile 2011 I attended a session with Jean Tabaka, an Agile Fellow at Rally, entitled ‘The Golden Circles of Agile Transformation’. I really enjoyed this session. In it, Jean challenged us to think beyond the individual practices we are doing with our teams – standups and sprint reviews in Scrum, pair programming and continuous integration with XP, etc. She led us through determining what our ‘book of guidelines’ is: what are the guiding principles that we use to tell whether the practices we are using are effective and when we need to add, modify, or remove any of them. The Golden Circle refers to concentric circles with ‘What’ (the practices), ‘How’ (how we know whether they are working and when to change them) and the ‘Why’ of using Agile.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately as well. I feel that it is so critical to really develop high performing teams and high performing organizations, to go beyond doing Agile practices by rote and to use them because they support principles and values that matter to us.
At first, I thought perhaps she was referring just to the 12 Agile Principles behind the Agile Manifesto. Instead, in addition to those she suggested considering guidelines from Lean as well:
1. Eliminate waste
2. Amplify learning
3. Decide as late as possible
4. Deliver as fast as possible
5. Empower the team
6. Build integrity in
7. See the whole
Also, from Systems Thinking, Design Thinking, Complexity Theory, Cynefin. This gave me a few new avenues to research and absorb. The point is, we want to continuously improve and adapt, and the guidelines offer areas for us to consider in making choices about what improvements will either help solve the problem at hand, or make us even more high performing and satisfied in our work.
During the last bit, Jean challenged us to answer the question of ‘Why’ we do Agile. As she said, the ‘Why’ should a BHAG – a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, or a Social Purpose, that kind of thing. Interestingly, it was very very difficult for most people to come up with a good answer to that question, and she gave us several minutes to reflect on it. I admit that I struggled with this question as well. I was reminded of a talk that Globant CTO Guibert Englebienne gave while I was at Orbitz, where he said that in his experience, technologists need to feel that what they are doing serves some purpose higher than making money (which is mostly for someone else anyway). I can relate to that. Interestingly, Rally’s higher purpose is to transform the software industry into a zero carbon footprint industry, starting with themselves. Go Rally.